You Got An Android for Christmas: Read This To Start Off Right

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The sugar rush of candy canes and chocolates is beginning to wear off and you’re finally starting to go through all the gifts and gadgets that you received this holiday season. You probably got something shiny and new, but with smartphones and tablets being capable of doing practically everything, you’re probably asking yourself: what next?

Before you go installing every version of Angry Birds in the Play Store there are a few more “practical” tasks you might want to address to keep your phone safe, charged, and ready to take you wherever you want to go.

Setting up

During the setup process you’ll probably be asked to connect to a Wi-Fi access point. Don’t skip this step! Configuring your device and installing all your apps, email, and whatnot over Wi-Fi will be much faster, kinder on your limited-use data plan, and won’t use as much battery as setting up over HSPA+ or LTE would.

Soon after you power-up your Android you’ll be asked to set up your Google account. Your Gmail address and password will get you started. If you don’t have a Gmail or Google Apps account you’ll probably want to set one up. Google’s services are the hub for all your apps, contacts, calendars, and more!

If you’ll be using your Android for work, you’ll probably want to set that up next. Open your “Email” app and add the account. Since manufacturers ship different versions of the email app with their device setup will vary, but most are simple and straight forward.

Next, open the Play Store, download and log in to whatever social apps (Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.) that you regularly use. Even if you don’t use them, connecting to them makes your contacts and other information available to you on your Android.

update

If you’re asked to update, don’t hesitate!

Somewhere during this whole process you might be told there is an update available for your device. Or two. Or three. Download and install these updates as quickly as possible. They contain bug fixes, new features, upgrades, and maybe even the latest version of Android.

Tweaking critical settings

face unlock

Using Face Unlock can be fast and awesome — or it can be terrible.

Now that you’ve got the basics set up, let’s do some protecting. Open your Settings, go to Security, and set up a Screen Lock. Depending on your version of Android you may have PIN, Pattern, Password, and/or Face Unlock. “Slide” and “None” aren’t really secure, for obvious reasons. Your choice of screen lock should balance the need to keep unauthorized users out of your phone or tablet, while making it easy to access. Most people go with “Pattern”, though Face Unlock can be quick and fairly secure — though opinions and usefulness vary.

A couple of tweaks to get you started (can be about security, performance, looks, etc., where available)

Must have apps

Lookout Mobile Security

Being an Android owner you’ll undoubtedly hear the drumbeat of “malware” from news sources and people who don’t carry an Android. Just smile and nod, knowing it’s not as big a deal as they make it out to be. Over-hyped risks notwithstanding, there is something you can do to protect yourself from known threats. It’s called Lookout Mobile Security, and it does more than just protect you from malware.

Lookout Mobile Security

Lookout is the Swiss-Army Knife of security apps.

There are, however, other things you’ll want to avoid; Lookout helps with those, too! I’ve never had a malware infection on any of my Android-powered phones, tablets, or TVs. Whether that’s just being smart and avoiding the “suspicious” apps, or just dumb luck, I don’t know. I have, however, misplaced one of my Androids — on more than one occasion!

Luckily, Lookout has a feature built in to help you locate your missing device. Of course that only helps if your phone or tablet still has some charge left in it when you go looking for it. Newer versions of Lookout have you covered there as well. When your device’s battery gets low, Lookout tells it to send up a virtual “signal flare” to let you know where it is — just in case.

Also included in the free version of the app is the ability to backup your most important information, for the unfortunate time when your device really is lost — or perhaps it met with an untimely death. If you want to fork over a few bucks, you can subscribe to even more tools to help keep you and your phone or tablet safe.

Once I get a new phone setup with my Google and Exchange accounts, the very next app I install is Lookout.

Waze

I’ve been using Waze since the beginning. It’s unlike any GPS or navigation app that you’ve ever used. Why? It’s social! Waze doesn’t focus on high-quality satellite imagery and deploying a fleet of alien-esque vehicles to drive every inch of paved roads in the world. Instead they use you. You are already on the roads, driving around. Waze uses that information to help build better maps, and to help others driving on the same roads know about road conditions in real-time.

Waze

Waze not only helps you get from Point A to Point B, but routes you around problems — real time.

Most people only use the navigation abilities of their phones when they’re trying to get to someplace far off or new. Waze encourages you to keep the app open whenever you’re driving — not just when you’re “navigating”. It not only tells you about traffic and hazards up ahead, but gives you the opportunity to report the road conditions that you come across in your travels.

If you haven’t used Waze before, or don’t always drive with it open, you’re missing out!

Must have accessories

If you still have some cash after the holidays, here’s what you can buy to complete your experience.

Car Charger

inductive charging

I just have to convince my wife that I need this new car charger for my phone.

As a logical follow-up to running Waze while you’re driving, you need to have a car charger of some sort. Whether that’s a plug for your DC outlet, a car dock made just for your phone, or a car that has inductive charging built-in, charging your phone while in your car is a great idea and helps keep your battery topped off for when you really need it.

Carrying Case

Nexus One Sleeve

Phone sleeve: best idea ever!

Despite what many may say, Gorilla Glass can be scratched. I’ve seen it. I don’t know what combination of exotic materials and strange events conspire to make it happen, but trust me, it can and does scratch. I’m not a fan of adhesive screen protectors, and less so of bulky cases. Fashion sense aside, I am an advocate of cases that you hook on your belt, or even sleeves that fit in your pocket. Whatever you do, when your phone isn’t in your hand, don’t slip it in your pocket — slip it into some kind of carrying case. Not only will your screen thank you, you’ll also have a certain amount of “drop protection”.

Tips, tricks

In Case of Emergency

You can display “Owner Information” on your lock screen. Most probably use this to put their name and alternate phone number. Why not re-purpose it to include “In case of emergency, please contact Connie Lou at 801-555-1212” or “ALLERGY: Penicillin!” I don’t know of any stories to back it up, but this tip alone could save your life. Better safe than sorry.

We covered this in some detail in an episode of the Android Guy Weekly, if you missed it, you can check it out here.

Ignore your Battery

ignore your battery

Pay no attention to the battery behind the curtain.

During the first several days you might get caught up in battery life, and frustrated that it’s not as long as you’d hoped. Don’t worry about it, in face, you should ignore your battery — no, not forever, only until the novelty wears off. During the “honeymoon” phase you’ll be downloading and installing lots of new apps, you’ll be chewing up data, and you’ll be “fidgeting” with your new toy. During this time your battery will drain faster than it will under “normal use”. Charge it when it needs to be charged, but don’t let “short battery life” get you down.

Your Turn

Now it’s your turn! What do you do to your phone or tablet right away? How is it helpful for you? Have any of the tips we’ve mentioned here come in handy or helpful in your life? Please let us know your stories and tips in the comments below!

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About The Author
Joe Levi
Joe graduated from Weber State University with two degrees in Information Systems and Technologies. He has carried mobile devices with him for more than a decade, including Apple's Newton, Microsoft's Handheld and Palm Sized PCs, and is Pocketnow's "Android Guy".By day you'll find Joe coding web pages, tweaking for SEO, and leveraging social media to spread the word. By night you'll probably find him writing technology and "prepping" articles, as well as shooting video.Read more about Joe Levi here.